| Finding Comfort in Faith (and Google): A Piece of the LGBT Youth Experience
Dylan Burkhart knew he was bisexual from sixth grade. He felt it with concrete assurance, a two-way attraction. “I just realized, hey—guys are hot and girls are hot and hey—everyone’s hot,” he said. “I never quite understood why everyone couldn’t just like who they liked. I still don’t.”
Growing up, Christianity was a constant presence in Burkhart’s life. He was a constant churchgoer, a reliable youth group attendee, a Facebook friend to his youth pastor—and, though it may seem contradictory, these connections never stopped once he first kissed a boy.
“Funnily enough, in my church two-thirds of the teens in the teen group aren't straight. I think, even though the church I’m involved in has mostly senior people, they are all very accepting people at the same time. A lot of churches give off that bad vibe, but there are a few safe havens like that that you can go to,” Burkhart said.
Burkhart recommends faith in more difficult times. “Religion doesn’t necessarily have to be Christianity,” he said. “It’s just something you can believe in, and if you feel uncomfortable with Christianity, find something else to believe in, because it will help you get through it. It’s just believing in something at all.”
Believing in something has been a refuge for Burkhart, particularly when he’s surrounded by disbelief. “My mom is a special case. She’s one of those people who believes that bisexuality doesn’t exist. It is either one or the other,” he said. In fact, a 2013 study presented at the American Public Health Association’s 141st Meeting and Exposition found that 15 percent of people don’t believe bisexuality is a real orientation.
He came out on April Fools’ Day via social media, in an odd combination of relief and disorder. “I posted on Facebook, ‘Hey guys, I’m gay,’ and I was like, ‘Just kidding, I’m bi, April Fools!’ It was all a very confusing time for everyone. My mom didn’t believe I was bi. She thought I was lying. She believes me now, but she still thinks I’m going to marry a girl. She just kind of pushes it aside,” Burkhart said.
He still doesn’t know what his brother thinks, though, and doesn’t seem to care either way. A small, pale boy with short-cropped hair, Burkhart doesn’t seem like the type to bury resentment, but some things gather over time. “The most notable aggression I’ve faced was my brother constantly calling me a faggot. Even before I had come out,” he said. “And it wasn’t supposed to hurt, and it shouldn’t have hurt, but it did.”
According to the 2013 National School Climate Survey, 74.1% of LGBT students were verbally harassed in the past year because of their sexual orientation. “When I hear someone say the word faggot, it’s like someone taking a tiny little knife, and just poking me in the skin, and when you hear it again it’s like another one, and another one, all over my skin,” he said.
“And it just built and built and built, until one day punched [my brother] in the face over it. Which erupted into a little event that end with him getting kicked out of the house.”
Even strangers can have a negative impact, in understated words and small gestures. “People come up to me and ask if I have a boyfriend, and I’ll be like no, and then they’ll ask about setting me up with a guy and I’m like, how do you know I’m gay?”
And for those unsure of where to go next, submerged in a well of some unknowable sexuality, he has one piece of advice: “Just look it up. Just go on Google and look it up and find yourself.”